September 11, 2001, Glendale California. Shortly before 6 a.m. A ringing phone wakes me up. I hear my girlfriend groggily answer it, and I can hear, all the way over on my side, the voice of her mother, upset about something. Lots of “What? What? What?” coming from that side of the bed.
“What’s she on about?” I manage to mumble.
“My mom says a plane hit the World Trade Center in New York.”
It takes a minute for that very unlikely sentence to sink into my sleepy brain, but the answer was plain as day to me. “She’s must be watching a movie or something,” I said.
“She says to turn on the TV!” There’s an urgency in her voice, and annoyed at what I think is her mom being confused and upset over nothing, I find the remote and turn on CNN.
There it is. A gaping hole. Smoke billowing out. We can see flames.
Now I’m awake.
It must have been some massive failure of the air traffic control system, some huge computer foul-up. I tell her that somehow, some pilot wasn’t looking out his window, was looking at some instruments that were obviously completely screwed up, and flew right into the building.
But then I start thinking about how many systems would have to break down for that to happen. And what would a plane be doing flying that low anyway?
Still believing it was some small commuter plane, the CNN anchor breaks in and says they’re getting reports it was a jet. An airliner.
And as confirmations come in that it was a jet that hit the WTC, that’s when we see the second plane. Not sure of what we just saw, the news network (I can’t remember if we stayed with CNN or if we started flipping around) helpfully replayed the footage.
Our mouths are hanging open. I start to say, “How the hell can a computer mix up explain a f—ing SECOND plane—” but as we both look at each other we have the same sudden, sickening thought forming in our heads, and the news anchor says at the same time, crystallizing the realization and finishing the thought for us, “This can’t be an accident. This is a terrorist attack.”
Cecil the cat jumped into bed with us, wondering why we were awake so damn early and decided to capitalize on the opportunity and meowed for food.
I don’t think our eyes left the television the whole day.